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The Decline of the Tainos. Critical revision of the demographical-historical sources


It is known that, during the first years of Spanish colonization in Hispaniola, there was a rapid depopulation of the island, until the Taino aborigines were totally extinct.

One of the causes which led to the Taino extinction was the enormous physical fatigues for all sorts of work which the colonizers forced the Tainos to do. The Tainos were a pacific group, with an agricultural economy mixed with gathering and fishing, and were not used to such heavy work. But it was not only the physical fatigue that decimated the Tainos. The colonizers introduced into the island illnesses, such as German misles and chicken-pox, to which the Tainos were immunologically defenceless. Not least devastating, were the massacres perpetrated by the Spanish when »hunting» the Indios to subject and exploit them in the Spanish »encomiendas». Finally, the aborigines, to avoid captures, systematically committed suicide and mass abortions.

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Danubio, M.E. The Decline of the Tainos. Critical revision of the demographical-historical sources. Int. J. Anthropol. 2, 241–245 (1987).

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Key words

  • Tainos
  • Demographical decline